What I wish I would have said to my mother


My mother has cancer.

It has metastasized to her forehead. Her eyebrow, actually.

She’s in pain and she’s angry.

This is all horrifying and sad.

And, interesting.

Interesting, because my mother passed away last August.

I’m living what you might know, Dear Reader.

You, who has said goodbye to someone you love.

Someone who is gone, but just not really gone.

And so, it is, these nights, that my mother shows up in dreams.

This happens about once a week.

She’s angry. She’s critical.

She’s not the only one who shows up.

Some nights my late father, pops up, too.

Not together. Not in the same dream.

Which is the one relief I can exhale for my mother.

She was so angry with him when she passed.

“Do you think you’ll see Dad on the other side?” I asked her in her final days.

“Good God, I hope not,” she said honestly.

Mom was never one for many filters.

She certainly saw no need to put them on in her final days.

That I keep my parents segregated in my dreams is the only victory I claim when I wake up shaken.

For there’s always a feeling that I’ve somehow failed her.

She pushes me in my dreams just as she pushed me in life.

The force who always asked of a report card of all A’s and one B, “What’s the ‘B’ about anyway?”

She continues to push.

Did I do enough for her during her life?

During her last chapter?

Her final days?

I know her answer.

That I didn’t.

The answer thrusts me into an obsession with my checklist.

What I did.

What I didn’t.

What were healthy boundaries?

What were healthy expectations?

Like many mother-daughter relationships, the lines and answers aren’t so clear.

They don’t add up the same from either side.

I know her answer.

I didn’t do enough.

I wasn’t enough.

She will be back to remind me in a dream.

To wake me in a pool of doubt at that deep, dark time of night when my defenses are down.

Only the light of day will clear things up.

It’s a thing no one really talks about with death and relationships.

They don’t end.

The conversations continue.

There are things you miss.

Like not being able to call her to dish on Oscar Red Carpet dresses for the first time.

Then there are things you don’t miss.

Like being told I abandoned her by getting married.

There are things you don’t mention in polite conversations or newspaper columns.

Unless, it’s your job to do so.

Which it is mine.

Just as it is my job to work out this relationship with my mother.

We will get there.

I hope.

When choices we made, things we said and feelings we felt will simply be interesting.

No right.

No wrong.

No more pain.

Just a dream where she shows up.

And I can say, “Mom, it is so good to see you.”

And she says, “You, too, Daughter. You, too.”



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